Cobalt-free materials for lithium-ion batteries are in the sights of many investors these days.They are increasingly seeing the benefit of research support to find alternatives to politically, structurally, and geographically problematic cobalt.
Conamix, a little-known startup based in Ithaca, New York, has raised several million dollars to accelerate its development of cobalt-free materials for lithium-ion batteries. The company has developed a new material and process for creating low-cost, high-energy, and cobalt-free electrode materials.
Several reasons contribute to the movement away from cobalt content in lithium-ion batteries. Prices of the mineral have multiplied over recent years. Cobalt, which is typically combined with nickel and manganese in electric-car batteries, is relatively scarce.
Given the ambitious expansion plans of lithium-ion producers, the world will face cobalt shortages by the early 2020s. Moreover most of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is known for corruption and human rights violations, including its cobalt “artisanal miners,” who are often children.
Tech companies have started to heed the call to discontinue trading relationships with suppliers of DRC cobalt.
Cobalt’s mounting threat to electric vehicle growth has prompted a growing number of companies to explore other solutions and to shift to new chemistries with higher energy density and less cobalt.